Steve McClure, one of the UK’s best known and highest performing rock climbers, has just sent the third ascent of Rhapsody (E11 7a) at Dumbarton Rocks. And guess who was hanging off the top of the crag capturing the action as it unfolded live? Yeah, right again KSP!

Steve let slip his interest in ‘having a go’ at Rhapsody in mid-2007 following his ascent of Overshadow. After all, what to do next after you’ve just done the hardest sport route in the country? No-brainer really – it as to be the hardest trad. route! So the dye was cast in 2008 for Steve but he was not alone in pursuit of the Rhapsody scalp. Sonnie Trotter, having tried Rhapsody in spring 2007, was also back in town. In fact as the final plans for Steve’s second visit were made deep in S10 and S11, word outted that Sonnie Trotter had managed to repeat Rhapsody. It was however very obvious as we drove north that Steve was very psyched.

Following a couple of working sessions on a top-rope on Saturday, Sunday the 15th June 2008 dawned clear and fine – but was it going to be a memorable day though?. We were back at the crag by 10 am and Steve immediately set to work. Warming-up on the crack of Requiem (joke!), Steve set-to on a final top-rope burn on the headwall. It went badly, actually it’s probably fair to say it went very badly! Steve boned off repeated – and this wasn’t even the crux! “What’s this?” I wondered; “he’s human after all.”! Rhaspody wasn’t giving up lightly. I could tell that Steve was smarting inside but he was a seasoned campaigner and he dealt with it – somehow!

By mid pm he committed to the lead. I thought I could detect a degree of nervousness about his climbing. This attempt, his second only following a ‘quick do’ on the previous visit, ended when he caught a couple of fingers in a quickdraw and a fingerjam. We all took a breather. Steve climbed much smoother on his next go up and once he was properly committed on the run-out he was totally focused. I was straight above him shooting and he was looking straight up my lens. His face was full of concentration. He climbed quickly, as he is usual style, but took a shake-out on what looked like a ridiculous small edge in the middle of the traverse back right before committing to the boulder-problem crux. After this there was still a few metres of climbing and as it was moving away from my position I couldn’t see his face. However, I could tell from the way he was climbing that he was tying really hard. After what seemed an age, he got the top and looked over at me, rolled his eyes, shook his head and said something like ‘man that was a close one – nearly didn’t make that’. His face was a picture – which of course I duly captured. That’s action photography or you!

More images from Steve’s ascent will be appearing in climbing:09, the fifth annual calendar from KSP due for publication in Autumn 2008.